Pentagon to order 2,000 US troops to be ready for possible deployment to Middle East
Stars and Stripes October 17, 2023
WASHINGTON — Two thousand U.S. service members will soon stand by for possible deployment to the Middle East to support Israel in its war against Hamas militants, the Pentagon said Tuesday, stressing none would be combat troops.
“This directive increases [our] ability to respond quickly to the evolving security environment in the Middle East,” Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said. “To be clear, no decisions have been made to deploy any of these forces at this time.”
The decision to send “prepare to deploy” orders to 2,000 military personnel was made by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and first reported by The Wall Street Journal. The Pentagon clarified at a briefing Tuesday that any deployed U.S. service members would only provide air defense, medical help, transportation and certain security logistics.
‘’This order only puts these units on higher alert,” she said.
The Pentagon stressed no U.S. troops will be sent to fight on the ground or enter the Gaza Strip, which has been pounded by an Israeli aerial bombardment in response to an attack by Hamas militants on Oct. 7 that massacred hundreds of Israeli civilians.
The 2,000 U.S. service members who will receive pre-deployment orders will be sent to the region if President Joe Biden gives the order. The Pentagon said exactly which units will receive the orders has not yet been decided.
“It is up to the commanders to start sourcing those units to figure out who would best meet the requirements that are needed. But those units have not been identified yet,” Singh said.
The Pentagon also said Austin has approved extended deployments for the USS Gerald R. Ford and USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier groups in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit has been sent to the region.
The 26th MEU is a group that specializes in amphibious operations, special operations, and humanitarian aid. The Pentagon said the group could assist with evacuations, if necessary. Israel has advised hundreds of thousands of civilians in the Gaza Strip to evacuate ahead of planned military strikes.
The aircraft carrier groups serve to deter other nations or militant groups from escalating the conflict and lend support, if needed, officials said.